This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
The first game of the NLCS kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 p.m. EDT, which means the next round of the playoffs has begun in earnest. Building lineups for these slates may seem like a tall order with elite pitchers generally the ones left standing, but we can dig into the numbers to find weak points and value plays.
Fresh off securing his first save, Max Scherzer ($8,600) is the likely candidate to toe the rubber for the inaugural game of the series. It may seem like a given he's going to do great things on the mound, but the veteran continues to improve with a 2.46 ERA in 2021 representing the lowest mark of his career. Every team in the postseason packs an offense punch, but Scherzer draws a relatively soft matchup against the Braves and their 25 percent strikeout rate against righties represented the league's eighth-highest mark. It must be said Scherzer will only pitch if he feels up to it after his excursion in the NLDS decider, but he only threw 13 pitches during that outing and that may be an indication that he'll be ready today.
Nothing in Max Fried's ($6,800) profile screams "dominant force", but it's hard to argue with the 1.74 ERA and .229 wOBA he allowed against opposing offenses after the All-Star break. The Dodgers were among the best teams in most relevant offensive metrics, but Fried was able to stifle them in their meetings during the regular season by allowing just three runs over 12 innings (two starts).
Nathan Eovaldi has had his strikeout pitch working during the postseason, but will face an Astros side logging the second-lowest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this year at 20 percent. While Eovaldi finished the regular season strong, he struggled on the road giving up a .471 slugging percentage from 68.1 frames. Jose Altuve ($5,100) showed tremendous power at Minute Made Park this year with an ISO (.262) nearly 100 points higher than his mark away from home.
Luis Garcia threw the ball well at home this season, but generally had trouble keeping lefties in the park with a 1.6 HR/9 rate over 72.2 innings. He's also the only pitcher on this slate who recorded a negative run value with his fastball (-2.0 RAA). This is all great news for Kyle Schwarber ($4,900), who produced a .359 ISO against right-handers this season along with a top-10 RAA against the heater (25.3).
Adam Duvall's ($4,200) postseason salaries up to now have made him seem like a forgotten man, but the 33-year-old displayed incredible power against righties in 2021 with a .292 ISO across 384 at-bats. While his high strikeout rate wouldn't ordinarily make for an ideal candidate against Scherzer, the former Cy Young Award winner has given up his share of homers to same-handed opposition (1.3/9), and it would only take one swing for Duvall to pay off.
Albert Pujols' ($2,300) salary reflects the fact he isn't expected to be in many postseason starting lineups, but the veteran took the field when the Dodgers faced left-hander Alex Wood in the Division Series and that makes me think his name will appear in the opening nine against Fried. While Pujols will likely never be an everyday player again, he more than did his part against southpaws during the regular season with a .309 ISO in 136 at-bats. Those who roster him should know he'll almost certainly leave the game as soon as a righty takes the mound, which may limit his at-bats. Still, Pujols represents an incredible value who offers the potential to be productive.
Stacks to Consider
While it may not exactly be fair to call Garcia the most exploitable pitcher on the slate, he does have a few tendencies that we can look to target. Hernandez has the potential to be the chalk hitter of the evening, as he's been unconscious at the plate during the postseason with a .571 ISO over 28 at-bats.